chemistryDepression presents itself in many forms, and one such form has symptoms that appear to be almost contradictory to depression. It’s called “atypical depression,” and it affects a surprisingly large number of people who, because of the atypical symptoms, would not otherwise think that they have a form of depression

But make no mistake about it – atypical depression is very much a subtype of depression. Despite the name, it is not uncommon: Psychology Today reports that atypical depression is responsible for between 23 to 36 percent of all cases of depression, but because of the non-standard symptoms, it often goes unrecognized and undiagnosed.

Those symptoms can be:

  • Sleeping a lot (hypersomnia) instead of being unable to sleep
  • Overeating (hyperphagia) instead of losing appetite
  • Gaining weight instead of losing it

The journal Psychiatry defines hypersomia as 10 hours per day (or two or more hours a day than usual), and a weight gain of five pounds or more.

Other Symptoms of Atypical Depression

A further atypical symptom of atypical depression is what is known as “mood reactivity,” where a patient responds appropriately to positive events. However, the feelings of happiness do not last, and the common feelings of depression return soon after.

Another symptom of atypical depression is what is known as “leaden paralysis.” The Psychiatric Times describes it as the patient feeling like they are physically unable to move, as though their body is being weighed down by lead.

Lastly, atypical depression also can make a patient excessively sensitive to criticism and negative feedback. The Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry defines this as leading to “social or occupational impairment.” While nobody enjoys the feeling of rejection or denial, a reaction that causes significant and notable difficulty in other areas of life might be a sign of atypical depression. This “rejection sensitivity” contrasts with the “mood reactivity” mentioned above; the patient experiences happiness when something good happens, but overreacts to negative stimuli.

How Can Atypical Depression Be Treated?

Treatment for atypical depression follows the same pattern as treatment for other forms of depression. There are two main courses: medication, which usually involves the administration of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors that work by restoring some balance to the brain’s neurotransmitters that are responsible for positive feelings, and psychotherapy, where a doctor helps the patient understand the psychological mechanics behind their atypical depression. With this understanding, the patient can learn how to combat the onset of depression symptoms with more positive thoughts and behaviors.

Because atypical depression often presents in people who are concurrently diagnosed with bipolar disorder, some of the medications prescribed for the treatment of bipolar disorder can also be used in treating atypical depression. A case study published in the Psychiatric Annals journal concluded that the same mood stabilizers used with bipolar patients could also prove therapeutic for atypical depression.

Even though the symptoms of atypical depression can be confusing, there’s still a world of help and assistance for you, or for a loved one who you feel may be atypically depressed. We can answer your questions about the signs of atypical depression, as well as give you the information you need regarding treatment here at Black Bear Lodge. Call for more details.